How leading businesses are going digital to create modern workplaces

It’s a hectic world out there, which is why teams are choosing to get together in the cloud.

When businesses are launched, they have the advantage of size. New start-ups are small and small is good in many ways.

With only a handful of employees, the team is closely connected and most likely works from the same office. A limited number of clients means the business can be in close contact with customers and offer excellent service. When new market opportunities are identified everyone can react at speed and adapt.

This is a great recipe for success, but as the business grows many of these early capabilities can fade or even fall by the wayside altogether. With more employees, the senior team can find themselves preoccupied with managing the people rather than building the company. The core team that used to share the same workspace morphs into a collection of departments in separate locations. A busy pipeline of new business leaves individual customers feeling like they are just a number.

The need to be “always on”

Regardless of their size or their potential, every business must face – and overcome – the challenges of a changing and disruptive world. For many, digital transformation and a move into the cloud using systems such as Microsoft Office 365 is the way to go in order to create a modern workplace that leads to more collaborative and responsive ways of doing business.

The internet introduced UK businesses to the potential of the international marketplace. This was quickly followed by the realisation that their own participation required a round-the-clock presence to compete effectively.

Now, these same companies are being challenged to deliver “everywhere commerce” – the ability to deliver goods and services any place, any time, across any device.

“I want it NOW!!”

Many of these changes are customer-driven – they expect to make transactions whenever, wherever and however they choose. And they expect an excellent service before, during and after every interaction with your business. In the modern marketplace your competitors are never more than a click away, and your customers are fully aware of that fact.

In other words… everything you do has to be exceptional.

Not only that, businesses with a growing workforce are also facing increased pressure internally, particularly as the company expands. An upsurge in flexible working demands from tech-savvy employees is forcing employers to re-evaluate their processes and operations. Just 25% of millennials expect to work “normal” office hours for instance.

Far from pandering to the demands of a new generation however, the benefits of flexible working may actually be of greater interest to employers. There are dozens of studies from across the globe that consistently underscore the value of flexible working provisions, like those from Regus Global:

  • 51% of workers employed by SMEs report feeling healthier thanks to flexi-working provisions.
  • 71% of small businesses report that their productivity has increased as a result of flexible working practices
  • 63% of SMEs also link increasing revenues directly to flexi-working.

One illustration is Birmingham City Council (Europe’s largest local authority). By implementing agile working practices, the local authority has realised some stunning achievements:

  • A reduction in the number of buildings required to house administrative functions, from 55 to 8.
  • Better use of IT resources allows them to share 6500 workstations among 9500 employees, reducing wasted capital investment.
  • Running costs have reduced from £19 million per year, to £11 million (42%).
  • Savings of over £100 million have been created during the project lifetime.

Get ready for another change

The story in Birmingham is a case study of successful enterprise-wide change, but businesses with hundreds of employees are presented with many of the same challenges. Unlike start-ups, larger businesses face increased operational complexity, adding to the management overheads associated with staying ahead of the competition and turning a profit.

Most will quickly discover that their legacy IT systems are unable to provide a suitable platform to support their continuing growth plans, let alone support their existing processes. The in-house IT team (if there is one) can be quickly overwhelmed as they are called upon to work more miracles – often without any additional funding.

In fact, there is a very good chance that retaining IT systems in their current form increases management overheads, adding to running costs and shrinking profit margins. In other words, the change that leaders of growing businesses need to deliver is being held back by the very technologies that are supposed to support their operations.

For this reason, decisions made around IT infrastructure are crucial to competing effectively for business and attracting the best talent.

Tech on tap

The reality is that technology already exists to allow employees to work whenever and wherever they are, using any device.

More importantly still, these technologies are capable of delivering a consistent, familiar experience that minimises the learning curve and helps workers get up to speed quickly. And by harnessing the power of the cloud, employees can collaborate securely on projects and documents, even when based in different parts of the country or elsewhere in the world.

Microsoft Office 365 is already helping many growing businesses to implement the necessary IT infrastructure changes to overcome their internal and external changes and create a platform for a modern workplace. Without any additional capital investment, Office 365 grants access to familiar productivity tools across almost any device – including employee smartphones if required. The ability to access key documents and files securely is the first step towards a truly mobile, flexible workforce.

High street chain Yo! Sushi faced similar challenges, looking for a way to improve flexibility and collaboration for their 150 users, and to manage their aging IT environment. Rather than upgrading or replacing their in-house email server, they chose to adopt the cloud-based Office 365. As well as having a new, hugely scalable email platform, Yo! Sushi employees gained access to a hosted intranet system that allows the team to communicate and share information more effectively – along with the productivity tools needed for general admin tasks. And they even managed to cut their IT infrastructure costs by 40% in the process.

Change for organisations that operate on a similar scale is always a real and present threat. But managed correctly it can also present a vast range of opportunities to improve customers’ experiences, employees’ work life balance, and ultimately company profits.

Points to remember

  • Customers expect any time, any place any device access to your business.
  • Increasingly, employees demand more flexible working conditions – including teleconferencing options.
  • Smart technology already exists to assist with both of these challenges, regardless of your business size.

Over the coming weeks we will be looking at the challenges facing businesses as they grow, and how technology can be applied to help teams to do things differently and do different things.